After playing on the Walton women’s team for four years in high school, she moved to Savannah to play another four at Armstrong Atlantic State University. She earned all-conference honors and appeared in the national final four during her college career.
But not long after her career came to a close, tragedy struck.
On Halloween night 2013, Holt was hit by a drunk driver during a visit to nearby Statesboro. Exactly what happened still isn’t known, but it has changed life for Holt, her family and friends, forever.
Suffering from severe injuries both mental and physical, Holt, 24, is five months into what her parents hope will be a two-year recovery process.
Her father, Ben Holt, is closing down his interior construction business to take care of her full time. To help offset staggering medical costs, a fundraiser was held last Saturday night at the boys and girls Walton-Lassiter soccer games.
Sallie Winokur, an organizer of the event and former Walton soccer booster club president, said more than $10,000 was raised that night through concessions, tickets and donations. Though Lassiter is a big rival, its athletic department agreed to promote the event and donate all the proceeds to Holt as well.
“There’s a saying in soccer that ‘you’ll never walk alone,’” said Winokur, whose daughter played with Erin. “That’s how we feel. We are a big family.”
Holt hasn’t played for the Raiders since 2008, the year she graduated. Still, her father said the school is a tight-knit community. Ben Holt took over barbecuing before games during the 2007 season. But even after his daughter graduated, he still cooked before a handful of games the next season, and even worked concessions as late as the 2011 football season. Erin’s older sisters, Lindsey and Ragan, also are Walton graduates.
The family moved to Cherokee County after Holt’s injury to be closer to relatives. Still, Ben Holt was beyond impressed with the turnout at the games.
“It was just awesome,” he said. “It far exceeded anything we ever expected.”
Times in Savannah
Erin Holt loved Savannah, according to her father. She moved there before her freshman year in college and stayed on the coast after her last season ended in 2012. Most of her friends on the team had stayed in the area and she was working at a local apartment complex.
Holt’s time with the team had been a success as well. The team made the Division II final four and claimed three Peach Belt Conference championships.
Ben Holt was expecting his daughter might stay in the Savannah area permanently, and he was fine with that. But a dreaded late-night phone call changed all of that.
“The officer on the scene called us pretty much immediately because he knew it was severe,” said Ben Holt. “They told me she had suffered a stem injury … I didn’t expect her to make it through the day.”
The driver was an acquaintance of Holt’s. The family is supposed to meet with the local district attorney’s office in the coming weeks as the investigation continues. But the bigger focus for the Holt family is on Erin’s recovery.
“Our goals and plans are for her not to be a victim, but to be victorious about this,” her father said. “So far, she’s been a champion.”
Recovery could take two years
Holt suffered severe brain trauma and was in a vegetative state after the accident. In that type of situation, science can only tell so much. Her family had to wait and see.
But Erin made it through that night, the next one and the one after that. She spent a long time in a Savannah trauma center. Slowly, she began to show signs of recovery.
Today, she is starting to speak again and can use some of her limbs as she undergoes rehabilitation at Shepherd Pathways. Her father estimated she’s at 40 percent of her previous self, but recovery periods can last up to two years. Ben Holt, Winokur and everyone else who knows Erin Holt hopes she makes a lot more progress before that time frame is up.
“She’s already doing better than they thought she would,” Winokur said.
More fundraisers have been planned, such as a golf tournament April 25 a Woodstock’s Bradshaw Farms golf course. There is a donation page for Erin Holt at WaltonSoccer.org. Holt also has a Facebook page set up called Push Forward 25 and a website, PushForward25.com.